Evan’s Almighty dollar

The Evan Almighty arkFor months, the filming of Evan Almighty out in Crozet was the talk of the town. Now the film’s ballooning budget is the talk of Hollywood. According the Los Angeles Times, the film’s cost will reach the $175 million mark by the time it’s finished in December, making it the most expensive comedy ever made.

Apparently, while we were star-struck with the big Hollywood production, which involved the construction of a 400-foot "ark" in Crozet’s Old Trail Village development, director and UVA alum Tom Shadyac and crew were busy spending boat loads of money. According to Universal Studio execs, the Times reports, most of the overun was the result of 11 extra days of shooting in Virgina, where they say bad weather delayed the construction of the ark and the crew ran into difficulties "trying to coordinate animals and children's shooting schedules." The execs also cite unexpected costs for visual effects.

Of course, it’s important to remember that Evan’s prequel, Bruce Almighty, grossed $485 million world-wide. Then again, it’s important to remember that Bruce Almighty starred Jim Carrey. Still, studio execs have high hopes for Evan (do they really have a choice?) and are expecting it to be next summer’s big hit.

"Is it costing a little more than we wanted? Yes," one of the producers told the Times. "Is it worth it? Definitely. This has the potential to be bigger than the original."


You have got to be kidding? Sure, they built a couple of instant tear-down houses out there in Olde Traile Village, but $175 million??? Morgan Freeman and Steve Carell couldn't have been charging Jim Carrey-style fees, could they?

It's not Freeman or Carell driving up the cost. It's the FX and nagging costs like triple overtime for the crew caused by shooting delays.

Carrell was paid a mere (by La-La land standards) $500K for the 40 Year Old Virgin, although his asking price has certainly gone up in the wake of that hit. But his salary couldn't possibly be more than $8-10M. Freeman is in the $15M per picture range, plus back-end participation, as he is an Oscar winner who virtually guarantees box office. Plus, the man has only been involved with one truly lousy film in his life -- Dreamcatchers. But Freeman's payday still can't come close to the kind of money flying out the window on this picture.

Evan Almighty was originally scheduled for a Christmas release, but has now been pushed back to June '07.

Oh, and Shadyac is a strictly hit-or-miss director with a sketchy track record. For every Bruce Almighty-style hit he has helmed, there is a Patch Adams on his resume. The weather may have been one factor for spiking the budget to $175M+, but the visual effects are what's driving the cost in post-production, which is why this became newss in the first place -- principal shooting wrapped months ago.

Will it be a hit? Who knows? Cameron's critics were lining up to eat him alive for his alleged excesses and then Titanic came out and went into orbit on repeat ticket sales to adolescent girls.

One thing seems a safe bet: at $175M, Evan almighty will have to do at least as well as its predecessor to run a profit. The rule of thumb for shifty hollywood accountants is a pciture must produce a double ROI before it can be considered in the black.